Steak 101: Steak Au Poivre + ten tips for a perfect steak!

Cooking the perfect steak

I think you should do a post on cooking steak, my lovely, little friend Tina sulked at me one day after an, in her mind, pretty horrible experience in which she had tried to cook a steak dinner for her boyfriend and a mutual friend and, in her mind, had failed miserably. “Well, I might,” I replied, and then, quite honestly, shrugged the whole thing off.

The truth is, Tina is not as bad at cooking steaks as she thinks she is. She is, however, terrified of the process, as are, apparently a lot of other people. Since Tina’s first sulking remark, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for tips, advice and help for steak cookery from various places. Heck, I’ve even been offered money to perform the dirty deeds on premises. Which all seems a little weird because while cooking steak is not exactly easy, well, it’s not exactly rocket science either. Honestly, with a little bit of knowledge, a few simple tips and a fair bit of practice (and practicing cooking steaks is fun, my friends) anyone (except maybe your dog) can cook the perfect steak!

So, Tina, this one’s for you… And all the other excellent home cooks out there who are, for various reasons, a little intimidated by the though of cooking one of the grandest dinners of all time: Steak!

Steak au PoivreSteak au Poivre, the ultimate steak dish?

Before we get started, though… Sit back, grab a beer, put your feet up. We may be in for a bit of a long read. I promise you, though, once you get to the end and have consumed everything including my secret pro tip at the very end, you’ll probably know as much as you’ve ever wanted to know about steak (and probably a little bit more) including what to look for in a steak, how to prepare it for cooking, how to tell if it’s done, and how to cook one of the most classic, most iconic (and surprisingly easy) steak dishes of the 20th century.

Erdinger WeisbierYou + one of these = this long read just got better!

Let’s get it on then with a few simple (and some not so simple) tips for steak cookery, walk with me…

 

Tip #1: Get to know your butcher

Have you ever felt bad because you tried to cook a steak and the result turned out tough and chewy? This is an experience that has broken the pride and will of many a home chef, but I’ve got good news for you. If this has happened to you, chances are it happened not because of your actions, but because of the quality (or lack thereof) of the steaks you cooked. You see, the fundamental principle of steak that everybody needs to come to grips with is that great steak comes not primarily from the actions of the chef frying it, but from the quality of the meat used and the way in which it was handled before and after cooking.

Rib eye steaksRib eye, the king of steaks? By the way, does this look like your ordinary supermarket steak? I thought not…

I’ve said it before and I’ll gladly say it again. Great steak starts with great meat! This is one dish where you will not want to save on ingredients. Great steak, sadly doesn’t come cheap, but great steak is a meal fit for kings, so here’s my suggestion: Eat fewer steaks and better steaks! Ditch the supermarket steaks, head out, find yourself a real butcher, the kind who will be able to tell you not only about his steaks, but also about the beasts who surrendered them, the conditions under which they were raised and the name of the guy in charge of raising. When you find such a butcher, look him, or her, in the eyes, stand tall and say with firmness in your voice: “I’m ready!”

The sad fact of the matter is that most supermarket steaks are not worthy of consumption. They’re bread for the lowest common denominators: price and sufficiency. Some supermarkets do specialize in quality cuts from quality cattle, but they are few and far between. For the real good stuff, you need to either find yourself a butcher, source the steaks online from a reputable producer or reseller, or if you’re really lucky, like me, befriend a lovely girl whose family raises happy, free-range cattle and poultry. While the latter may not be an option for everybody, the two former definitely are. It may take some time, but time spent finding an honest person who honestly cares about selling an honest product is time well spent!

 

Tip #2: Size DOES matter!

And guys, if you thought otherwise, you’re sadly naive! No, all seriousness kidding aside, for steak size DOES matter. Why? Because the perfect steak has a perfectly brown crust and a center that’s somewhere between perfectly pink and a nice, juicy red. And how do we achieve this? With a nice thickness of course. Thin steaks, like, say less than half an inch thick, simply do not provide enough mass for this perfect distribution of texture and doneness to occur. With a steak this thin, the high heat needed to form the crust will quickly blast right through the steak and start cooking the center, too, and we don’t want that. So get some nice, thick steaks!

Here’s another good reason to seek out that friendly neighborhood butcher, by the way. He’ll let you pick your own steaks, not have you settle for prepackaged goods. And if you don’t like his precut selection? A real butcher will cut you new ones to order, according to your directions and desires for thickness. If he won’t? I’m afraid you’re going to have to go look for a new butcher.

 

Tip #3: Know your steak cuts

A steak by any other name is still a steak. But steak is not just steak. There are a lot of different cuts of steak out there and they all have different qualities. Knowing them all apart can be pretty difficult, but here are a few classic steak cuts that you at the very least need to know about and get familiar with.

Typical steak cuts

Rib eye: Rib eye steaks are cut from the rib section of the cow. Rib eye steaks are one of the most flavorful, juicy and tender cuts of beef available due to excellent fat marbling throughout the entire steak. The marbling helps retain juices during cooking and makes for an awesome steak experience that is a favorite of many a steak lover.

Strip steak: Strip Steaks, or New York Strips as they are also known, are steaks cut from the short loin which sits a little further back than the rib section that gives us rib eyes. Strip Steaks are meaty and will have less marbling throughout than a rib eye, making them a favorite of those steak lovers who are not too fond of fat or connective tissue. Strip Steaks will, however, usually have quite a lot of fat around the edges of the steak that will provide plenty of flavor during cooking.

Tenderloin: Also know as Filet Mignon in some parts of the world, tenderloin is THE most highly priced cut of meat on the entire cow. Tenderloin contains barely any fat or connective tissue and is the single most tender cut on the entire beast. The extreme tenderness, complete lack of fat and the fact that the tenderloin makes up very little of the total meat real estate on a modern cow makes tenderloin the most expensive and sought after cut of meat for many steak enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the lack of fat and marbling also, in my mind and that of others, makes for a much less flavorful steak experience.

T-Bone / Porterhouse: Feeling hungry? In that case, you may want to try out the behemoth of the steak world, the T-Bone Steak, or it’s evil big brother… The Porterhouse! A T-Bone Steak, essentially, is a bit of all of the above. It’s a strip steak and a tenderloin steak fused together by the oddly shaped bone which gives the steak its name. Always thick cut and with plenty of bone and marbling to impart flavor, a T-Bone is about the juiciest, largest and most decadently absurd steak experience one can have. What’s a Porterhouse, then? Well, a Porterhouse is nothing but an even bigger T-Bone cut from further back on the animal, making for a larger tenderloin piece. Go on, knock yourself out!

Aussie Rules Steak: If you’re an Australian and you just read the above, chances are you’re now a little confused. Why is this? Well, for reasons I haven’t quite yet figured out, Australians refer to a strip steak as a Porterhouse and a tenderloin as a fillet. It’s a British Commonwealth thing, I think, but really I have no other explanation to offer for the switch around other than the fact that they like to shake things up in the Commonwealth. They drive on the wrong side of the road, too.

 

Hanger steak: Ah, a steak less ordinary! If you frequent steakhouses, you may have heard about hanger steak, or onglet, or butcher’s steak, as it’s sometimes called. Hanger steak is a relatively small piece of meat (about a pound total on each critter), cut from the belly of the beast that has an intense deep, beefy flavor and almost rivals tenderloin in tenderness. It’s hardly ever seen on menus or in stores, simply because so little of it is available. But if you can find it and you’re a true steak lover, do try it, it’s fabtabolous when cooked rare or medium rare! My lovely co-diners ordered it at Danny Brown’s in Queens, NYC two years ago, and I still fondly remember that one single bite I had of that damn steak.

What should you chose, then? Well, with hanger steak probably out of the equation and a T-Bone maybe a little too much for ordinary steak night, I’d say save yourself some money and leave the tenderloin to a less wise beef lover. For true steak perfection, get yourself a couple of strip steaks or rib eyes. For flavor, I’d definitely go with rib eye, but rib eye do contain a fair bit of fat throughout the steak. If you’re not into that, get the strip steaks, they’re pretty lean throughout. Naw, sod it, just get the rib eyes, you’ll thank me later!

 

Tip #4: Get to grips with the home dry aging trick

So, you’ve made your choice of steak, and now you want to cook a perfectly flavorful and tender steak? Well, hold on, you may want to wait a couple of days before frying! Why? Well… What separates a really good steak from a good steak, other than the quality of the beef? Its age! Yeah, I know, we’re touching upon a subject that you may not want to be reminded about, but steak is actually raw meat in a controlled state of decay.

Raw beef is made up of up to 75% water, and water isn’t exactly known for carrying a lot of flavor. So, before your steaks even get to your butcher’s counter, the whole, raw cuts of beef have actually been hung, or aged, in a dark, cool (and clean, I might add) place for up to several weeks with the sole purpose of intensifying existing flavor and creating new flavor compounds. During this time, water has naturally evaporated from the beef while natural enzymes have been hard at work breaking down tissue to increase tenderness and creating new and exciting flavors in the process. These two processes, in perfect union, are referred to as dry aging and help create the perfect, tender and flavorful steaks that we love.

Rib eye steaksI know it’s a re-run, but just look at these gorgeous, dry-aged steaks!

Off-putting as the process may seem when given some thought, it is actually a necessity for creating really tender and flavorful beef and, consequently, steaks. Proper aging process is essential to great steaks, and we can (and should) continue the aging process at home!

All steaks are sold at a ready to eat stage and have been aged properly before hitting store shelves. Steaks bought at a butcher may even have been aged noticeably longer than steaks from your local supermarket and as such may carry more flavor. Steaks are, however, still mostly water and it stands to reason that if we can remove some more of that water while continuing the flavor development process and keeping things from going sour, we’ll have a slightly lighter steak with a much more intense flavor.

Luckily, though, nothing is easier than “dry aging” steak at home: all you need is a fridge, a small wire rack, 24-48 hours and something to catch any possibly drippings. Start off by getting a couple of steaks from your favorite source. The “aging” process will cause some loss of moisture, so you may want to get them slightly larger than you normally would. Once you get home, unwrap your steaks and place them on a wire rack, place the wire rack on something that will catch any possible drippings, then slide the entire rick onto the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. That’s it, really! Now, just leave them in the fridge, uncovered, for a day or two depending on the freshness of your steaks and the time you have at hand. During this time the steaks will shrink, turn dry and go a deeper shade of red than they were in the beginning. This is all quite normal and owing to a loss of moisture which makes for an intensification of flavor. For best results, you may want to turn your steaks half way through the process.

It may sound silly, but this step really makes a world of difference and is worth the extra wait and effort. If you’re looking for steak perfection, please, try this step! The best steak houses in the world buy their steaks in larger cuts then dry age them for up to several months in a controlled environment, cutting off any really dry and leathery spots as they go, then cut them into individual steaks and fry them up. This is one of the reasons why steaks are such expensive eats in the really good spots. You can (and should) replicate parts of this process at home for a much lower price, so do it!

 

Tip #5: Plenty of salt does it!

Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: What’s the difference between the really good food you cook at home, and really great food at a fancy restaurant? The amount of salt they put in the food! No, really!

A top steak needs very little in the way of seasoning, salt and pepper will do, but lots of it please. When cooking steak, salt it liberally with some good quality salt, and add a little more than you think you need. You’re cooking a large chunk of meat and you’re only really coating the surface. Plus, some will fall off during cooking, so be generous. A good rule of thumb here if you’re just starting out is to add as much as you think you need, then add a generous pinch more.

Properly seasoned Rib EyesWhatever you do, season your steaks simply, but properly!

Another rule of thumb is to season your steak in due time before cooking, a half hour or so. Some people will try to tell you that this draws moisture from the steaks, creating a bland, tough cut of meat, but this, in the immortal words of Danish TV personality James Price, is a load of bollocks! What it does do is help draw moisture and water soluble proteins to the surface of the meat. These will caramelize nicely during cooking, creating a wonderful crust and great flavor.

So, to summarize: Salt your steaks well, and salt them well before cooking. Add a touch of pepper (or a whole lot of pepper) and you’re ready to go. Oh, and yeah, I know, salt is supposedly bad for you, and all but then again, so is red meat. As I’ve said a few times already, eat fewer steaks, but when you do – go all in!

 

Tip #6: Bring steaks to room temperature before cooking!

Here’s another steak essential fact that has some people freaking out, but nevertheless, it’s of the utmost importance. For steak perfection, even cooking and proper heat penetration are essential and a steak, especially those of the thicker variety, cook better and more evenly if the meat is at room temperature before cooking!

Rib eye steaksThese local as can be Stip steaks, salted well before cooking and cooked at room temperature yielded no casualties.

Cook your steaks directly from the fridge and the crust will either have turned to ashes before the center gets cooked, or you’ll have a nicely browned steak with a cold, raw center. There’s nothing wrong with raw beef, but that’s another post, so take my advice and remove your steaks from the fridge at least a half an hour prior to cooking. I know, raw beef left at room temperature, it does indeed sound scary, but believe you me, nothing bad will happen. The pros have been cooking steaks like this for centuries. Half an hour is nowhere near enough time for bacterial growth or other bad things to set in, and besides any bacteria would merely be on the surface of the meat… Which has been subjected to a liberal coating of salt prior to cooking and searing hot temperatures during the cooking process.

Go on, chill!

 

Tip #7: A hot, but not too hot, cast iron pan is your friend!

So, how does one best go about cooking a steak? Some sources, TV personalities and even star chefs advocate cooking steaks in a blistering hot cast iron skillet, or worse yet a non-stick variety. I beg to disagree, though. I personally find that I get the best results cooking my steaks in a cast iron skillet that’s hot but not too hot. Why? Well, if you use a blistering hot pan, you not only run the risk of burning the surface of the meat rather than creating a nice flavorful crust, you also run the risk of the heat penetrating the steak deeper and cooking the meat much faster and much more thoroughly than you desired, both of which are factors that could spell disaster in steak making.

Cast iron steaksSteaks meet cast iron, magic happens, sexy grill marks ensue!

What do I propose, then? Well, what I do is I grab my favorite cast iron skillet and put it over medium high heat (my burner goes to 9, I keep it at 7 for steaks) for a good few minutes so I know it’s perfectly hot and warmed through before I even contemplate cooking. I then grab my oil and add a good two tablespoons or so to the pan, if the oil immediately spreads out and starts shimmering upon contact, I know that the pan is hot enough to move on. If this is the case, I add a generous knob of butter and get ready to commence frying. If not, I wait for another minute or so before moving on.

Restraint and patience will set you free, turning your heat too high out of impatience will have you starting over with new steaks. This is the Zen of steak frying.

To toss and turn, or not to toss and turn… That is the question! And a question that has long been debated amongst chefs. Some argue that turning the steak only once during cooking will create a nicer, browner, more even crust while others say that turning the meat frequently during the cooking process, may make for a less perfect crust, but will instead help the steak cook more evenly.

Which is better? Uhh, I say try both and see which suits you better. Personally, I turn my steaks only once during cooking which makes for a great crust and no problems with uneven cooking as far as I have been able to tell. If working with really high heat, though, like a charcoal grill, I sometimes turn my steaks frequently during cooking, but this is mainly to avoid burning.

 

Tip #8: Know exactly when your steak is done

One aspect of steak cookery that really have some home cooks shaking in their pants is the art of knowing when your steak is done. This is only a problem insofar as you want your steak on the medium and rare side, of course, over-cooking a steak is easy – you just leave it in the pan! But how do you know when a steak is, say, medium or medium rare? Well, there are at least two pretty good ways to tell, one more reliable and easy than others.

For starters, as a rule of thumb, assume that your steak needs at least one minute per side per centimeter of thickness over medium-high heat to achieve a medium-rare. After this period has expired, it’s probably time to start testing for doneness, which can most easily be done in any one of the following ways.

Using a thermometer: The easiest and absolutely most reliable way to know when your steak is at the right temperature is to simply use a fast and accurate meat thermometer. Prod the tip right into the thickest part of your steak and simply just take it’s temperature. You’ll know within seconds how close your steak is to perfection simply by referring to the chart below. This is the only surefire way of being absolutely 100% certain of your steaks level of doneness, but it’s also the most complicated way and it requires special equipment as well as punching a gaping hole in the steak which helps juices escape and that is a big no-no to many diehard steak aficionados. That being said, this is a great way to start out and get a feeling of steak cooking.

The steak doneness chart:

Rare: 52 – 55C

Medium-Rare: 55 – 60C

Medium: 60 – 65C

Medium-well: 65-70C

Well done: 70+C

I personally like my steaks medium-rare and would not advocate cooking them any longer than medium, but to each their own. For a graphical representation and further explanation of the above, please check this chart.

Using the pressure test: Here’s a neat party trick for you. It’s actually possible to tell the doneness of a steak, simply by prodding it with your finger. The more give a steak has, the rarer it is. Don’t believe me? Just watch this short video giving away the secret that most top chefs use when in doubt. Pay close attention, watch the position of the fingers, then try it yourself, you’ll be amazed!  After some practice, this is not only a pretty reliable way to test for doneness, you also look pretty damn cool and all professional like when doing it. I’d really recommend getting to grips with this technique, I’ll almost guarantee it comes in handy at some point in your steak-cooking career, say for example if you’re grilling with friends and don’t have access to a thermometer.

Fear of overcooking steaks keeping you from trying? Well, there you go! Using any of the methods above will take the guesswork completely out of cooking steaks and assure a perfect doneness every damn time. It may take you a little practice to get comfortable with the methods, but once you are, you’ll be able to cook steaks to order every damn time, and you will be the hero of your friends at the next grill-out. Don’t be afraid, just have a go!

 

Tip #9: Rest before cutting, patience young grasshopper

We’ve come along way already. We’ve learned what to look for in a steak, how to properly prepare a steak and how to fry or grill it to perfection… But there’s still one, little but absolutely crucial step left on our journey towards steak nirvana.

What are the three most important aspects of a good steak? Flavor, tenderness, and… that’s right, juiciness! Really great steaks will be dripping with juices in every bite while not so great steaks will seem dry and a little chewy. Think juiciness is a quality of the meat? It is, but only partially so. The juiciness of your steak is decided largely by the way in which you cook it!

One needs only listen to the sizzling or watch the browning reaction when cooking a steak to realize that some pretty serious forces are at work here doing some pretty heavy damage on our steaks of choice. Essentially, the cells at the surface of the steaks are being completely destroyed and broken down by the frying process, those on the inside are contracting and reacting to the heat, causing any moisture in them to be concentrated at the center of the steak. Once the frying process ends, the cellular fibers will gradually relax and moisture will be redistributed throughout the steak, creating a nice, juicy eating experience, but this process does take some time.

In light of this, if we were to cut into, poke or squeeze the steak right after cutting, the juices would seep right out and we’d be left with a dry, rather bland steak experience. If, instead, we waited a bit before handling or cutting into the beef, the juices would have had time to redistribute throughout the steak and would not run out during cutting, but rather stay in each bite for a much better, much juicier and tastier eating experience.

Anyone who has ever cooked a roast know this, but surprisingly few people consider the fact that a steak, really, is nothing but a small roast and as such should be treated like one and rested well after cooking? For how long, you ask? Well, a good rule of thumb is to rest your steaks for about the same time as you cooked them, on a plate, loosely covered with aluminum foil. Believe me on this one, your patience will be rewarded.

And please, do pay attention to the loosely covered bit mentioned about. There’s a lot of heat still left in large steaks after cooking, put several of them on a plate and cover tightly and the heat will continue to cook the steaks, leaving them more done than you expected once feasting time arrives. Loosely covering them keeps them warm while allowing excess heat to escape.

 

Tip #10: This is a pan, in here there be flavor

At this point you may be wondering why I insisted you to use a cast iron skillet for your steak cooking needs. Well, for one thing, non-stick pans don’t handle anything above medium heat very well. High heat actually may be damaging to the non-stick coating of many pans. Secondly, nothing handles heat retention and distribution quite like cast iron which makes for a much more even cooking experience. And last but not least, things cooked in a cast iron skillet tend to caramelize, burn and adhere slightly to the surface of the pan and that, believe it or not, is a very good thing.

FlavorSee all the stuff starting to stick to the pan? In there, my friends, lie the flavor!

If you did as I said and cooked your steak in a cast iron skillet, you may notice after cooking that there are quite a few browned specks stuck to the bottom of the pan. These are caramelized proteins, aka flavor bombs, and if we get them unstuck from the pan, we can use them to add an amazing depth of flavor to whichever sauce we chose to serve with our steaks. Or, better yet, we can use them to build a sauce right in the pan we fried the steaks in. While the steaks are resting. More flavor? Little work? Fewer dishes to wash? Sounds like a win-win situation!

How do we get these bits of flavor unstuck, you ask? Elementary, my dear readers, we simply add a water-type liquid to the pan (water will work, stock or alcohol would be much better flavor-wise) with the heat still on which will loosen any burnt bits. We then scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon or spatula to get everything unstuck. This process, in culinary terms, is known as deglazing and it’s one of the absolutely top tricks for creating extra flavors in a dish. The resulting combination of liquid and burnt bits, called fond, can be either dumped into an already prepared sauce to add extra meatiness, or can be mixed with more ingredients right in the pan to make a pan sauce, as we soon shall see.

Extra flavor is a terrible thing to waste, so keep this in mind when cooking steaks. Deglaze your pan and reclaim that lost flavor!

 

Still with me?

Wow, that was a bit of a read, compliments to you, dear reader, if you’re still holding on. You must really love steak! But then again, who doesn’t? Go on, have another beer to celebrate!

Trolden bryghusI don’t know about you, but all this text is making me thirsty! 😉

Well, congratulations, you made it! You sat through all my tips and secrets for cooking steak and you now know basically as much about cooking steak as I do. What do you say we put all our newly acquired knowledge to good use by creating a classic and iconic steak dish that will walk you through all the rules and processes outlined above? What do you say we cook one of the most iconic yet shockingly simple steak dishes of all time, the French classic Steak Au Poivre – or peppered steak if you will.

Steak Au Poivre – the French bistro steak classic!

Steak Au Poivre is, quite simply, the ultimate dish to exemplify the steak cooking process. It’s dead simple, easy to cook, uses few ingredients and flavor components, highlights the importance of good beef and few but vital flavoring ingredients and it shows us how a well-spent cast iron pan can be used for building a rich, decadent, flavorful pan sauce in nothing more than the few short minutes it takes for our steaks to rest after cooking.

PepperThey don’t call it Steak au Poivre for nothing!

Iconic and classic as it is and daunting as it may sound, Steak Au Poivre is actually a great dish for the novice steak cook as it sounds and tastes utterly complex and slightly posh, but in reality is dead simple and quite quick to make. Try it out, you’ll be surprised, and you’ll be impressing friends and family in no time!

Oh, and a little note on heat for those reading the recipe below and going “what the..?” … Yes, this recipe does call for quite a lot of pepper to be added, several kinds, actually, along with a very generous scooping of dijon mustard. Rest assured, though, that the high heat of the cooking process, along with the heavy cream and the sweetness of the Cognac mellows out much of the peppery bite and heat of the mustard. The result is a warming, creamy, slightly sweet, very meaty sauce that is sure to please you while still leaving your sinuses intact.

Steak Au Poivre

A French Bistro classic, Steak au Poivre, peppered steak in a creamy, peppery Cognac sauce.
Course Main
Cuisine French
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 2
Author Johan Johansen

Ingredients

  • Two steaks of your own choosing. Tenderloin is traditional rib eye works well
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • Plenty of coarse salt
  • Plenty of whole black pepper
  • Two tablespoons of brined green Madagascar peppercorns, drained
  • One tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 200 milliliters of heavy cream
  • 100 milliliters of quality beef stock
  • 50 milliliters of Cognac something you wouldn't mind drinking, but not top shelf stuff

Instructions

  1. Thirty minutes prior to cooking, remove steaks from the fridge, sprinkle generously with salt on both sides and let sit at room temperature until ready to cook.
  2. In a pestle and mortar carefully and coarsely crack a handful or so of pepper corns.
  3. Spread cracked pepper evenly on a plate and place the steaks on top, turn the steaks a few times until well, thoroughly and evenly crusted with pepper.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet over high, but not too high heat for a good few minutes.
  5. Add olive oil to pan, oil should spread out and start shimmering pretty much immediately upon contact, when this happens, add butter and wait for it to melt and foam up.
  6. Add pepper crusted steaks and cook to desired doneness, I suggest medium rare to medium, anything more than that would be a crying shame. Flip steaks once or multiple times during cooking as you see fit. Remember, you're the boss here.
  7. When steaks have reached their desired doneness, turn down heat to low, evacuate steaks to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest.
  8. Add cognac to pan, it will his and start evaporating immediately upon contact. That's the alcohol and water evaporating. If you're a real show off, you can put a flame to the fumes and enjoy the fireworks. Be careful if you do, though.
  9. Add beef stock to pan, using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully start scraping the bottom of the pan to release any caramelized bits of flavor into the sauce to be.
  10. Add the dijon mustard and stir, then add the cream, stir again to combine and slowly bring the sauce to a boil.
  11. Let sauce boil for a few minutes until a desired consistency has been achieved.
  12. Lastly stir in the green pepper corns along with any juices from the now well-rested steaks.
  13. Plate steaks up and serve with plenty of sauce, a side of roasted potatoes or fries and maybe some Parma ham wrapped green asparagus.

 

Top tip for the best steak ever!

Looking to cook an even better steak? Oh yeah, it’s possible! To make truly, magnificent steaks, cook them as you normally would, but during the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, add a generous knob of butter to the pan along with one clove of garlic, smashed and a big bunch of thyme sprigs. Let butter melt, then tilt pan so the butter pools on one side, grab a spoon and start repeatedly spooning the melted butter over the steaks.

This will impart a delicious garlicy thyme flavor on your steaks, as well as a delicious buttery richness, and make them go from mere steaks to a borderline religious experience. For a full demonstration, watch the trick at the hands of the master, Gordon Ramsey himself, in this clip.

 

Well, I hope that with the long rant I’ve shed some light on the mystery that is (to some) the entire steak cooking process. I also hope that I’ve helped you understand that cooking the perfect steak doesn’t have to be a complicated and daunting task and that much of the work actually lies in the preparation and finding the right cut of meat, then treating it the right way before, during and after the cooking process.

I also hope I’ve inspired those who may have been afraid or have had bad experiences with steak to give the entire process a new go, starting with the source of the beef. As I’ve already stated, most failed steaks turn out horrible not because of the abilities of the cook, but because of bad or improperly handled ingredients. Tough, chewy steaks, insofar as they were not overcooked at the hands of the cook, are not the fault of the cook. They’re more than likely caused by a bad, probably cheap, cut of meat.

So don’t be afraid of cooking steak, be afraid of poor cuts of meat from bad suppliers. Get to know your supplier and the next time you crave steak, spend a little extra, plan well in advance, age it well, season and bring to room temperature, then fry, rest and enjoy one of the best steak experiences of your life…

Have a top steak tip that I missed? Please let me know!

8 thoughts on “Steak 101: Steak Au Poivre + ten tips for a perfect steak!

  1. Tina says:

    So, I’ve been using these tips and tricks the last couple of days to improve my steak frying skills – and they got waaay better than they use to. Juicy, lots of flavor, nice crust, sexy grill marks, it just works! So now I just wonder if the same tips and tricks go for chicken? 😉

    • Johan says:

      I’m glad to hear my tricks have helped you cook a better steak 🙂

      You can use many of the same tricks for chicken, they dry aging part I’d steer clear of, thugh 😛 Chicken needs to be as fresh as can be. I also would not recommend cooking chicken medium-rare 😉

      Chicken – breasts especially, to remain juicy, needs more gentle heat, though. So what I would do was to start the pan at the same temperature as with steaks, sear the chicken on one side for a couple of minutes, then turn it and at the same time turn the heat down to low. Let the chicken sear for another few minutes and then cook over low heat, turning frequently till done.

      The butter, thyme and garlic trick works wonders here, too. I can’t really give you a cooking time as it depends on the piece of chicken, and you’ll need to experiment, but don’t worry, with the heat down it won’t overcook too easily. When done, chicken needs to be pretty firm to the touch when poked and have a core temperature of about 68-70. A slight pinkish hue at the center when cut into right off the pan is OK, but juices must run clear, if rested for but a few minutes after cooking, the pinkness will disappear and it will perfectly cooked.

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